Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Medical Marijuana Update

The specter of state regulation is prompting California cities and counties to regulate or ban medical marijuana activities, including several more this week; Florida's already delayed medical marijuana program faces more delays, Chicago sees its first dispensary, and more.

National

On Tuesday, Congress agreed to continue blocking DEA interference with medical marijuana states. Lawmakers have extended a ban on funding for the DEA and Justice Department to go after medical marijuana in states where it is legal. They also extended protections for hemp research, but failed to include provisions that would have allowed pot businesses to use the financial system and would have allowed Veterans Administration doctors to recommend medical marijuana.

California

On Monday, the Dana Point city council voted unanimously to ban cultivation, sales and deliveries. The move comes as the county seeks to maintain regulatory authority by acting before March 1, when the California Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act shifts control to the state if localities have not acted.

On Tuesday, Contra Costa County supervisors unanimously supported a cultivation and delivery ban for unincorporated areas of the county. Supervisors said it was to maintain local control ahead of the new medical marijuana law, but local activists say they don't trust local officials to regulate -- instead of ban -- such activities.

Also on Tuesday, Ventura County supervisors voted unanimously to formalize bans on commercial cultivation and sales ahead of the new state law. All 10 cities in the county also have similar bans, and the cities that don't have formal bans are working to enact them.

Florida

As of Monday, the state is being challenged over its medical marijuana grower licensing scheme. Eleven companies are challenging the way the state issued licenses for the nascent industry. The challenges will be heard by the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings. This means another round of court proceedings and further delays in getting medicine to patients. The program is already a year behind schedule, and now the earliest that medicines could be available is next spring or summer.

On Tuesday, the medical marijuana initiative campaign had 900,000 signatures. The United for Care initiative campaign says it already has 900,000 signatures, but is aiming for more than one million. These are raw signatures. The initiative will need 683,149 valid voter signatures to qualify for the 2016 ballot. A similar initiative won 58% of the vote last year, but failed because, as a constitutional amendment, it needed 60% to pass.

Georgia

Last Friday, the state's medical marijuana commission rejected in-state growing. The Commission on Medical Cannabis voted 9-5 against allowing medical marijuana to be grown in the state, but the main proponent of expanding the program, Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) said he was still optimistic he can get in-state cultivation approved. "I think we can still make a compelling argument to the governor," Peake said. "I think we can address the fears of law enforcement. I think we can address the issue of potential demand. I'm absolutely certain we can provide legislation that both maximizes the benefit for our citizens and minimizes the risk to public health in our state."

On Monday a new poll found strong support for medical marijuana. Under current Georgia law, people with certain illnesses are allowed to use medical marijuana, but it can't be grown or produced in the state. A new poll has 84.5% of respondents supporting expanding that law to allow for in-state cultivation with strict regulation. Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) has sponsored legislation that would do just that.

Illinois

Last Wednesday, the first dispensary in the Second City opened for businesss. Chicago's first medical marijuana dispensary opened in Uptown. Dispensary 33 opened on North Clark Street. Some 150 patients are registered to use it.

Last Friday, the state told patients they couldn't be gun owners, then retreated. Illinois state police sent letters to a handful of patients saying their firearms cards were being revoked, but now say the letters were sent in error. Patients remain skeptical.

On Wednesday, the state said it will allow residents to petition to add more qualifying conditions. State residents hoping to add a new disease or medical condition to the state's list of qualifying conditions will be able to do so during the month of January, state health officials said Wednesday. They can submit petitions to the state Department of Public Health through January 31.

Michigan

Last Tuesday, there were fireworks at a Senate medical marijuana hearing. A hearing on a package of bills to regulate dispensaries grew heated as Marine Corp veteran Dakota Serna, who uses medical marijuana for PTSD, lashed out at changes in the bill that would tax patients and send some of the revenues to law enforcement. "This bill not only takes more money from them, it taxes their medicine -- you're going to give some of that medicine to the sheriff's department, the jackboots, the thugs that comes into people's homes and kick in the door," said Serna. That led to an angry exchange with Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge), who then ordered Serna to leave the hearing. The National Patients' Rights Association, which had supported the bill, said it is withdrawing its support after the changes, which would treat medical marijuana much like the state treats alcohol.

Last Thursday, activists managed to kill those dispensary bills Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) has given up on moving his medical marijuana dispensary bills in the face of strong opposition by activists. The link has all the juicy details.

Missouri

Last Thursday,a medical marijuana initiative was approved for circulation. Secretary of State Jason Kander (D) has approved a medical marijuana initiative for signature-gathering. Read the initiative here.

Utah

On Monday, a new poll had strong support for medical marijuana. Some 61% of Utahns support legalizing medical marijuana, according to a new poll from Dan Jones and Associates. The poll comes as Sen. Mark Madsen (R-Saratoga Springs) says he will reintroduce a medical marijuana in the coming session. His bill last session failed by one vote in the Senate.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM: Ireland to Allow SIF, Congress Renews DEA Funding Ban in MedMJ States, More (12/16/15)

Congress continues to block DEA harassment in medical marijuana states, Washington state could see a lot more pot shops, it looks like Florida will vote again on medical marijuana, Ireland is moving toward setting up a supervised injection site in Dublin, and more.

A supervised injection site is coming to Dublin next year. (vch.ca)
Marijuana Policy

Congress to Continue Blocking DEA Interference With Medical Marijuana States. Lawmakers have extended a ban on funding for the DEA and Justice Department to go after medical marijuana in states where it is legal. They also extended protections for hemp research, but failed to include provisions that would have allowed pot businesses to use the financial system and would have allowed Veterans Administration doctors to recommend medical marijuana.

Washington Could Allow Lots More Marijuana Stores. The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) today heard a staff recommendation to increase the number of retail marijuana outlets from 334 to 556. The move is expected to be finalized in emergency rules to be announced January 6.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Medical Marijuana Initiative Already Has 900,000 Signatures. The United for Care initiative campaign says it already has 900,000 signatures, but is aiming for more than one million. These are raw signatures. The initiative will need 683,149 valid voter signatures to qualify for the 2016 ballot. A similar initiative won 58% of the vote last year, but failed because, as a constitutional amendment, it needed 60% to pass.

Illinois to Consider Adding New Qualifying Conditions. State residents hoping to add a new disease or medical condition to the state's list of qualifying conditions will be able to do so during the month of January, state health officials said Wednesday. They can submit petitions to the state Department of Public Health through January 31.

Methamphetamine

Indiana Legislators Compete Over How to Restrict Access to Cold Medications. Faced with a bill that would require a doctor's prescription to obtain cold medications containing pseudoephedrine, two lawmakers have come up with an alternative measure that would instead allow pharmacists to decide whether or not customers could buy the cold medications.

Drug Treatment

Most People in Treatment for Marijuana Are Sent There By Courts. A report this month from the US Department of Health and Human Services finds that between 2003 and 2013 52% of people in drug treatment for marijuana were referred by the criminal justice system. Only 18% were in treatment because they sought it themselves.

International

Irish Cabinet Approves Supervised Injection Site in Dublin. The cabinet has approved a pilot plan for a medically supervised injection facility in the nation's capital. The move came yesterday and was at the behest of Aodhan O'Riordain, the minister in charge of the National Drug Strategy. The country's drug law must first be amended to allow for such facilities, which should happen early next year.

Annual Study Finds Legalization Hasn't Increased Teen Use [FEATURE]

The article was written in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

The University of Michigan's annual Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey of teen drug use was released today and shows that softening attitudes toward marijuana and actual marijuana legalization in four states and Washington, DC, have not translated into increased teen pot smoking.

The survey also had generally good news about other drugs, reported declines in teen use of ecstasy, heroin, alcohol, cigarettes, and synthetic cannabinoids.

MTF has been tracking drug use, including alcohol and tobacco, since 1975, and surveys more than 40,000 8th, 10th, and 12th graders in some 400 public and private secondary schools across the country. The research is sponsored by the National Institutes on Drug Abuse.

"Marijuana, the most widely used of the illicit drugs, did not show any significant change in annual prevalence this year in any of the three grades, nor in the three grades combined," MTF reported in its press release. "After rising for several years, the annual prevalence of marijuana has more or less leveled out since about 2010."

That's significant since legalization wasn't approved in Colorado and Washington until November 2012 and in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, DC, in November 2014. And in each case, it took some time to actually go into effect.

If legalization in the states has had any effect on teen pot use rates, the MTF figures make clear it hasn't shown up yet. Teen pot use stabilized before legalization and hasn't increased since.

While use rates have been stable for the last five years, with 12% of 8th graders, 25% of 10th graders, and 35% of seniors reporting using at least once in the past year, they are well above the historic lows that MTF reported in the early 1990s (although near the levels of the survey's earliest years in the 1970s, which, interestingly, are omitted from the tables accompanying this year's report).

The report also found that a tiny fraction of teens are using marijuana regularly. These rates stand at 1.1%, 3.0% and 6.0% in 8th, 10th and 12th grades, respectively. These rates are also higher than the historic lows from the early 1990s.

The stabilization of teen marijuana use comes even as MTF reports that the percentage of students who see its use as carrying a great risk has declined dramatically. Fewer than a third (32%) of seniors saw a great risk, down from 58% in 2005, and similar decreases obtained for 8th and 10th graders.

And it comes even as teen support for legalization grows. A June 2014 MTF report noted that, "The proportion of 12th-grade students who favor legalization of marijuana was at the highest level ever recorded" and, "The proportion of 12th-grade students who favor marijuana use as a crime is at the lowest level ever recorded by the survey."

Students for Sensible Drug Policy was quick to make the obvious point.

"Youth marijuana use is stable, and even falling in some categories, all while a growing number of states enact legalization," said Betty Aldworth, the group's executive director. "This new data solidifies early indications that the scare tactics peddled by prohibitionists are false. Criminalization isn't the way to encourage young people to make healthy choices; regulating a legal market and honest, reality-based education is."

"That fact is made even more clear by the continued reduction in youth tobacco and alcohol use. We didn't need to put anyone in handcuffs or jail cells to convince an historic number of students to avoid smoking and drinking. These reductions were achieved with honest, evidence-based public health strategies and not by criminalizing cigarettes or beer. Drug use is a health matter and should be treated that way," Aldworth concluded.

Chronicle AM: Drug Czar Calls Drug War a Failure, But..., New Yorkers Toke Up in Streets, More (12/15/15)

The New York Times discovers public pot smoking in its backyard, another Florida jurisdiction decriminalizes, Florida's medical marijuana program faces more delays, the drug czar calls the drug war a failure, and more.

Marijuana Policy

New Yorkers Are Smoking Pot on the Streets! The New York Times rather breathlessly reports it has discovered that "lighting up and strolling around seems increasingly common in pockets of Brooklyn, on side streets in Manhattan and in other public spaces." The newspaper cites street smokers are saying they are emboldened by legalization elsewhere in the country and by the low-key comments of the city's leaders, including the police commissioner. Public pot smoking remains an arrestable offense, but that doesn't appear to be stopping a lot of people, especially white people. White people make up less than 9% of those arrested for pot possession.

Florida's Palm Beach County Decriminalizes. County commissioners voted this morning to decriminalize the possession of 20 grams or less of marijuana. Officers can still arrest possessors, but now have the option of simply issuing them a $100 ticket instead. Miami-Dade County has already decriminalized, and so have several municipalities in the Greater Miami area.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Challenged Over Medical Marijuana Grower Licensing. Eleven companies are challenging the way the state issued licenses for the nascent industry. The challenges will be heard by the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings. This means another round of court proceedings and further delays in getting medicine to patients. The program is already a year behind schedule, and now the earliest that medicines could be available is next spring or summer.

Drug Policy

Drug Czar Calls Drug War a Failure, But Resists Calls to Legalize Marijuana. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) head Michael Botticelli proclaimed the war on drugs a failure during a CBS "60 Minutes" interview. He said the "failed policies and failed practices" of the past were largely responsible for the country's mass incarceration problem. "It has been all wrong," he said. "We can't arrest and incarcerate addiction out of people. Not only do I think it's really inhumane, but it's ineffective, and it cost us billions upon billions of dollars to keep doing this." But he couldn't wrap his head around marijuana legalization, arguing that legal drugs kill half a million people a year and that legalizing would send the wrong message."So, we know that about one in nine people who use marijuana become addicted to marijuana. It's been associated with poor academic performance, in exacerbating mental health conditions linked to lower IQ," he said, adding that he fears states becoming co-dependent on "tax revenue that's often based on bad public health policy."

International

Ireland Proposes Drugged Driving Law That Could See "Completely Sober" Drivers Arrested. Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe is backing proposed drugged driving legislation that would allow for roadside drug testing of drivers and prosecution of drivers who had even inactive metabolites of drugs such as marijuana in their systems. When asked if the bill could lead to the prosecution of "completely sober" drivers, Donohoe replied, "yes." Under more questioning, he denied that prosecuting drivers who were not impaired but who had marijuana metabolites in their systems was a case of the government prosecuting drug offenses. "No, it's a road safety offense," he said.

Black Lives Matter Makes A Powerful Connection With Racist Drug War [FEATURE]

This article was published in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

The Black Lives Matter movement sprung out of the unjust killings of young black men (Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown), either at the hands of self-styled vigilantes or police. But as the movement blossomed and matured, BLM began turning its attention to a broader critique of the institutional racism behind police violence against the black population.

While the war on drugs plays a central role in generating conflict between the black community and law enforcement, the critique of institutional racism in policing and the criminal justice system necessarily implicates the nation's drug policies. The grim statistics of racially biased drug law enforcement are well-known: blacks make up about 13% of the population, but 30% of all drug arrests; blacks account for nearly 90% of all federal crack cocaine prosecutions; black federal crack offenders were sentenced to far more prison time that white powder cocaine offenders; blacks and other minorities are disproportionately targeted in traffic stop and stop-and-frisks despite being less likely than whites to be carrying drugs, and so on.

People who have been spent careers working in the drug reform movement didn't need the publication of Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow to understand the corrosive and screamingly unfair impact of drug war racism on black communities, but the 2010 broadside helped open eyes outside the movement and deepened the visceral impact of drug war racism for those already in the trenches. The book continues to reverberate. And now, Black Lives Matter is bringing a whole new sense of energy and urgency to the issue.

Despite efforts by leading drug reform groups like the Drug Policy Alliance, the world of drug reform remains overwhelmingly white. With marijuana legalization proceeding at a rapid pace and business opportunities emerging, the unbearable whiteness of the marijuana industry is becoming an increasingly high-profile issue.

Last month, Black Lives Matter activists released Campaign Zero, a comprehensive platform for curbing police violence and reforming the criminal justice system in the US. The platform does not explicitly call for ending the war on drugs, but drug war policies and policing techniques are inextricably intertwined with the policing problems (and solutions) it identifies. Campaign Zero calls for decriminalizing marijuana within the context of a broader call for moving away from "broken windows" policing, as well as demanding an end to mass stop-and-frisk and racial profiling policies, both impelled in large part by the drug war. It also calls for an end to "policing for profit," whether through issuing tickets for revenue-raising purposes or through another drug war creation, the use of civil asset forfeiture to seize cash and goods from people without convicting them of a crime (sometimes without even arresting them).

Most of the other Campaign Zero policy proposals regarding police use of force, militarization and community control don't directly address the war on drugs, but because the drug war is so pervasive, it is implicated with them as well. According to the FBI, drug offenses were the single largest category of arrests made, constituting 1.5 million of the 11 million arrests nationwide last year.

How does a mostly white drug reform movement that is already intellectually aware of drug war racism, and that has used it to its advantage in efforts like the Washington, DC marijuana legalization fight and the struggle to roll back harsh mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws, deal with Black Lives Matter? To its credit, the Drug Policy Alliance took a big whack at it during last month's International Drug Policy Reform Conference in suburban Washington. While race and the drug war were an issue at numerous sessions during the conference, a Live National Town Hall on "Connecting the Dots: Where the Drug Policy Reform Movement and the #BlackLivesMatter Intersect" brought a laser-like focus to the topic. And it was a hot topic -- event organizers had to move the event to a larger room at the last minute when it became evident that hundreds of people were determined to be there.

They came to hear from a panel that included BLM co-founder Patrice Cullors, Break the Chains: Communities of Color and the War on Drugs founder and executive director Deborah Peterson-Small, NAACP Legal Defense Fund senior organizer Lumumba Bandele, DPA policy manager Kassandra Frederique, and St. Louis hip-hop artist T-Dubb-O. DPA program director Asha Bandele was the moderator.

People have to open their minds to new paradigms, the panelists warned. "People are so wedded to the institution of policing they can't even imagine something different, something radical," said Cullors. "We have to transform the way our communities have been completely devastated by the war on drugs."

"We are at a historic moment right now, a moment where freedom looks different to people than how it looked before," said Peterson-Small. "Harriet Tubman famously said she could have freed more slaves if the people only knew they were slaves -- that's the psychology of enslavement. What we need now is a conversation about white people who believe they're free when they're not," she said.

"We black people already know we're not free," Small continued. "I worry about the people who believe they're free, the people who think the police are your friends, that they're here to serve and protect you. You have a lot of illusions about the role of police in your lives."

The legacy of slavery lives on all too vividly in the modern criminal justice system, she said.

"Policing is the way white America continues to replicate the cycle of enslavement, the power dynamic on which this society is based. Every time a black man is arrested, it's a reenactment of that dynamic," Peterson-Small said.

"We believe in two incompatible things," she told the audience. "We believe that we live in a free and democratic country where anyone who works hard can succeed, but we also know we live in a country established by and for the benefit of white men. White folks are in denial about that incompatibility, but it's no longer possible to pretend something that's been going on for 200 years hasn't been happening."

Removing the blinders from white people's eyes is part of the struggle, she said. "Our fight for freedom is your fight for freedom. Oppressed people have to be the agent and catalyst of freedom for their oppressors," she told a rapt crowd.

DPA's Frederique talked about the imperative she felt to make the connection between her work as a drug reformer and the broader issue of racism in America in the wake of the Trayvon Martin killing.

"We can't wait to make the connection, I needed to understand how to make the connection," she said, "but I was without words. Now, I locate the work I do as racial justice. If we're going to continue to say that the war on drugs is war on people of color, if we continue to get nontraditional allies and say marijuana legalization is a civil rights issue and how we are winning, I find it hard to believe the idea that we can win the war on drugs without winning the war on people of color. If we think that, we're doing something wrong."

"Drug policy reform needs to systematically disrupt and destroy institutional racism," she said. "If we don't, we can't ask black people to sit at the table."

But as moderator Asha Bandele noted, it's not just white racism that's holding down black people when it comes to drug policy. "Respectable" black people have been a bulwark of the drug war, too. If you just obey the law, you won't get in trouble, they say, looking down their noses at their troublesome brethren.

That's wrongheaded, said Peterson-Small. "If we were having this conversation 135 years ago, people would have said the same thing about the pig laws as we say now about the crack laws," she said. "We've always been in a war for our survival in this country. The only reason we are here is to be a source of economic profit for other people."

Alluding to Poland's WWII-era Lodz Ghetto, Peterson-Small warned that meekly complying with harsh and arbitrary authority to ensure the survival of the community can end up with the elimination of the community.

"We've got to stop drinking that Kool-Aid," she said. "When we as a community are willing to stand up for the brother with a blunt and a 40 the way we did with Trayvon, they won't be able to keep us down."

"Just look at me," said hip-hop attired T-Dubb-O. "I have a dream, too. I don't want to be a hashtag, I don't want to sell drugs, to kill somebody who looks like me. It's the system of white supremacy that puts me in that mind state. When you talk about the war on drugs, that school-to-prison pipeline, that's what gives them that mind-state," he said.

"We don't own no poppy farms, but now we have a heroin epidemic," he said. "The murders you see in Chicago, those killings in St. Louis, that's heroin."

T-Dubb-O took drug war solidarity to the next level, mentioning the case of the 43 missing Mexican student teachers presumably killed by drug gangs working in cahoots with corrupt local politicians.

"We have to have an international vision of the people who are repressed," he said.

In response to an audience question, Peterson-Small got down to nuts and bolts. If we want to dismantle racism, drug policy provides a space to apply harm reduction to the problem.

"The work that really needs to be done is for people to understand that we're not the ones who need fixing," she said. "All of us have been infected by this thing. If we apply harm-reduction principles, we would focus on what is the intervention, not who is the racist. It's a course of treatment, not a weekend of racial sensitivity training."

The National Town Hall is just a beginning. We still have a long way to go.

Chronicle AM: Activists Block Bad MI MedMJ Bills, Jeb Bush Now Open to Decrim, More (12/14/15)

San Francisco prepares for marijuana legalization, a Kentucky state senator wants it there too, Ohio legalizers spent millions losing last month, a federal drug and mental health treatment bill passes the Senate, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Jeb Bush Now Supports Decriminalization, But Still Calls Pot a "Gateway Drug." GOP presidential contender Jeb Bush last Friday said he could live with decriminalization. "It's one thing to say we should have decriminalization of marijuana. I support that," he said in an interview with Joe Mathieu of Boston' WBZ NewsRadio. While that is an advance for the former Florida governor, he added that he rejected legalization and brought out the discredited gateway theory for support. "Marijuana is a gateway drug just as opiates are a gateway drug," Bush continued. "Of course it is, every study shows that."

Kentucky Senator Files Marijuana Legalization Bill. Sen. Perry Clark (D-Louisville) announced last Friday that he has pre-filed the Cannabis Freedom Act, which would repeal pot prohibition and replace it with a regulatory framework that would "promote public safety and responsible cannabis consumption by persons over 21 years of age." The bill will be considered during the 2016 legislative session, which starts January 5.

Michigan Supreme Court Okays Grand Rapids Decriminalization Ordinance. The state high court has rejected a challenge to the ordinance's legality from Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth. The ordinance, approved by voters in 2012, makes possession or sharing marijuana a civil infraction, punishable only by fines. Forsyth had argued that the ordinance was an illegal restriction on his power to enforce state drug laws, but he lost in circuit court and the Court of Appeals. And he lost again, and finally, when the state Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal.

Ohio Legalizers Spent Nearly $22 Million in Failed Initiative Campaign. Ouch, that's gotta hurt! ResponsibleOhio and its deep-pocketed backers, who hoped to win monopolistic marijuana concessions, spent more than $21 million in their campaign, only to get trounced last month. The campaign spent $12 million between July and October and had burned through nearly another $10 million just getting on the ballot.

Eyeing Looming Legalization, San Francisco Creates Marijuana Task Force. Last week, the Board of Supervisors' Rules Committee voted to appoint 11 people to a task force aimed at helping to guide the city's policies in the face of seemingly inevitable marijuana legalization.

Medical Marijuana

Michigan Medical Marijuana Activists Stop Dispensary Bills. Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) has given up on moving his medical marijuana dispensary bills in the face of strong opposition by activists. The link has all the juicy details.

Utah Poll Has Strong Support for Medical Marijuana. Some 61% of Utahns support legalizing medical marijuana, according to a new poll from Dan Jones and Associates. The poll comes as Sen. Mark Madsen (R-Saratoga Springs) says he will reintroduce a medical marijuana in the coming session. His bill last session failed by one vote in the Senate.

Heroin

New Hampshire Attorney General Will Seek Murder Charges in Heroin Overdoses. Attorney General Joe Foster (D) says he plans to aggressively seek murder charges against dealers of drugs involved in overdose deaths. "The message to dealers is: If you sell this stuff here and we can (figure) the facts out, you will be going to jail for a very, very long time," Attorney General Joe Foster said. Overdose deaths are expected to top 400 in the state this. Foster also said he is seeking $115,000 for a new prosecutor for drug cases and exploring a federal grant to hire another drug prosecutor.

Drug Policy

Federal Synthetic Drugs Bill Filed. Rep. John Katko (R-NY) has filed HR 4229, which seeks to "address the continued threat posed by dangerous synthetic drugs by amending the Controlled Substance Act" to make it easier to go after drug analogs. It also calls on the US Sentencing Commission to ensure that sentences for violations are "appropriately severe."

Drug Treatment

Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act Passes Senate. The act, S 993, sponsored by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), passed the Senate last Thursday. It is aimed at facilitating collaboration among the criminal justice, juvenile justice, veterans treatment services, mental health treatment, and substance abuse systems. The bill now goes to the House.

International

Colombian Senate Approves Medical Marijuana. In a plenary session last Friday, the Colombian Senate approved a bill legalizing medical marijuana. President Santos had said he would do it through an executive order, but the Senate decided not to wait. The bill now moves to the Chamber of Deputies, where it will be debated early next year.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Chronicle AM: Mexico Issues First Pot Permits, DOJ Wants More $$$ for Asset Forfeiture, More (12/11/15)

A legalization initiative dies in Florida, but another is born in Montana; the Justice Department proposes funding increases for asset forfeiture programs, Mexico issues the first permits allowing people to grow and possess marijuana, and more.

!Viva Mexico!
Marijuana Policy

Florida Legalization Initiative Gives Up. Marijuana legalization will not be on the Florida ballot next year. Regulate Florida, which was the group behind the campaign, conceded Wednesday that it would not be able to gather the 683,000 needed signatures by the February deadline. They may try again in 2018, the group said.

Montana Legalization Initiative Approved for Signature Gathering. Secretary of State Linda McCulloch (D) Thursday approved the language of Initiative 178, which would legalize pot for people 21 and over, subject to licensing requirements and state regulations. Petitioners need 24,175 valid voter signatures, including at least 5% of registered voters in each of the state's 343 House districts.

St. Petersburg Ponders Decriminalization. St. Petersburg city council members Thursday asked Pinellas County commissioners to decriminalize small-time pot possession. Council members said that if the county doesn't act, they will draft their own municipal decriminalization proposal. In the past year, local decriminalization has taken off in Florida, with Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, as well as several municipalities in those counties, adopting similar ordinances.

Asset Forfeiture

Justice Department Wants Even More Money for Asset Forfeiture Programs. American law enforcement is seizing property from citizens at a record rate, but that's apparently not good enough for the Justice Department, which is seeking increased funding to support the asset forfeiture activities of the DEA and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces. The department wants $297.2 million to fund asset forfeiture in FY 2016, up $14 million over the previous year and up a whopping 146% since 2008. The entire federal drug control budget has increased by only 25% during that same period.

Drug Policy

Maine Legislature Caves in to Governor, Agrees to Hire More Drug Agents. Legislative leaders Wednesday unveiled a $4.8 million plan to fight the state's opiate use problem, with half of the funding going to law enforcement, including the hiring of 10 new state drug agents. Gov. Paul Le Page (R) had threatened to call in the National Guard today to fight drugs if the legislature didn't fund his demands. The other half of the money designated would go toward treatment, recovery, and education.

International

Mexico Issues First Permits to Grow and Use Marijuana. The Mexican government has awarded permits to four people that allow them to grow and possess marijuana for personal use. The move comes in the wake of last month's Supreme Court decision allowing the four to legally produce it for their own use. Both the court ruling and the permits were limited to the four people in the case, but could pave the way for similar court rulings across the country and, ultimately, pot legalization nationwide.

Danish Parliament Considers Medical Marijuana. The parliament today began debating a proposal to legalize marijuana for medical use. The bill is sponsored by Alternativet, but has the support of other parties as well. Alternativet, Dansk Folkeparti, Liberal Alliance, Socialistisk Folkeparti, and Radikale all support the bill. Together, they have 88 votes in parliament, precisely the number needed for the measure to pass.

Chronicle AM: Naloxone News in NC & NYC, DC Pot Social Club Fight, CO Pot Tourism, More (12/10/15)

Legal weed is drawing tourists to Colorado, DC activists fight for pot clubs, a federal appeals court rules that all students at a technical college can be subjected to drug testing, there's naloxone news from New York City and North Carolina, and more.

NCHRC reports 1,500 overdoses prevented with Naloxone in 2 1/2 years.
Marijuana Policy

Legal Marijuana is Boosting Colorado Tourism. Pot businesses have long claimed as much, and now they have some solid evidence. A Colorado Tourism Office study released Wednesday shows that the state's marijuana laws influenced nearly half (49%) of decisions to vacation in the state. Some 22% of survey respondents said marijuana was "extremely influential" in their decision to visit Colorado. Twenty percent said it was "very much influential" and nearly 7% said it was "somewhat influential."

DC Activists Fight Back Against Bill That Would Ban Pot Clubs. The city council is today hearing a bill that would make permanent a ban on businesses allowing patrons to smoke marijuana on premises, but that's not sitting well with the people who got weed legalized in the District. "It's unnecessary. The current law prohibits any venue from selling marijuana or promising marijuana in exchange for admission. But what they're doing with this bill is banning any kind of use of use outside the home. There's a big problem with that, because there are lots of people who have nowhere to use their cannabis," said Adam Eidinger, the man behind the District's successful 2014 legalization initiative. Eidinger is warning that if the council passes the bill, he could push more ballot initiatives, including one allowing marijuana to be treated like tobacco and one that would impose term limits on council members.

Illinois Lawmaker Files Decriminalization Bill. Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) announced today that she is filing House Bill 4357, which would make possession of up to 10 grams a civil offense punishable only by a fine. A similar bill passed earlier this year only to be vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner (R), who proposed amendments to it at the time of his veto. The new bill addresses those amendments.

Michigan Legalization Campaign to Extend Signature Gathering. MI Legalize is extending its signature gathering campaign and turning to paid circulators to qualify for next year's general election ballot. Under state law, petitioners have 180 days to gather signatures, but that is a clock that runs backward from the time signatures are actually turned in. The campaign's original turn-in date was December 21, but it will now go longer. That means early gathered signatures may not be counted. For example, if the campaign turned in signatures on January 21 instead of December 21, the first 30 days' worth of signatures would not be counted, but more recent signatures would.

Medical Marijuana

Georgia Medical Marijuana Commission Rejects Growing It In-State. The Commission on Medical Cannabis voted 9-5 against allowing medical marijuana to be grown in the state, but the main proponent of expanding the program, Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) said he was still optimistic he can get in-state cultivation approved. "I think we can still make a compelling argument to the governor," Peake said. "I think we can address the fears of law enforcement. I think we can address the issue of potential demand. I'm absolutely certain we can provide legislation that both maximizes the benefit for our citizens and minimizes the risk to public health in our state."

Missouri Medical Marijuana Initiative Approved for Circulation. Secretary of State Jason Kander (D) has approved a medical marijuana initiative for signature-gathering. Read the initiative here.

Drug Testing

Federal Appeals Court Rules Missouri College Can Drug Test All Students. The 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis ruled Monday that the Linn State Technical College can require all students to take drug tests. The appeals court decision overturns a federal judge's 2013 decision that the college could only drug test students in five particularly safety-sensitive programs. The school policy had been challenged by the ACLU of Missouri, which said such widespread, suspicionless drug testing violated the Fourth Amendment.

Harm Reduction

New York City Makes Overdose Reversal Drug Naloxone Available Without a Prescription. Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced Monday that the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone (Narcan) will now be available without a prescription in pharmacies in the city. "The deaths are what we all struggle to avoid… but that's just the tip of the iceberg," de Blasio said during his announcement at a YMCA. "For every death, there are literally hundreds who struggle with addiction."

North Carolina Sees 1,500 Lives Saved With Overdose Reversal Drug Naloxone. In just under 2 ½ years, more than 1,500 overdose deaths have been prevented with the use of the overdose reversal drug naloxone (Narcan), the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition reported today.

Law Enforcement

Rep. Steven Cohen Rips Use of Student Snitches. In the wake of a 60 Minutes report last Sunday and earlier reporting by Reason, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) ripped into the practice of using nonviolent, first-time drug offenders as confidential informants. "It's time for the Department of Justice to take a close look at how the behavior of confidential informants not only threatens to ruin young lives, but in some cases, end their lives," he said, adding that he intends to file reform legislation.

International

Scotland To Begin Ticketing, Not Prosecuting, People With Pot. Starting next month, Scottish police will issue warnings to people caught with marijuana rather than prosecuting them. The move is part of a broader effort to change how police deal with petty crime, freeing them up to deal with more serious offenses.

Chronicle AM: VT Legalization Bill Coming Soon, Second City Gets First Dispensary, More (12/9/15)

It's one of those all-marijuana news days. A Vermont legalization bill looms, Dallas could stop arresting small-time pot possessors, a Michigan medical marijuana hearing got testy, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Vermont Legalization Bill Coming Soon. The Senate Government Operations Committee is finishing up deliberations on a bill to legalize marijuana. Lawmakers are putting final touches on the bill and expect it to be done in time to go to the printer Friday. This bill and another legalization bill offered during the last legislative by Sen. David Zuckerman (P/D-Chittenden) will be taken up first by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Dallas Could Move to Ticketing, Not Arresting, People for Pot Possession. Dallas's police chief has asked the city council to consider a "cite and release" policy for small-time marijuana possession busts. The council's Public Safety Committee voted Tuesday not to recommend the policy change, but the issue will go before the entire council shortly, though no date has been set. The policy change would apply to possession of less than four ounces. Dallas police arrest about 120 a month for small-time pot possession, and the chief says it's a waste of law enforcement resources to have to book and jail them.

Medical Marijuana

Fireworks at Michigan Senate Medical Marijuana Hearing. A hearing on a bill to provide protections for dispensaries grew heated Tuesday as Marine Corp veteran Dakota Serna, who uses medical marijuana for PTSD, lashed out at changes in the bill that would tax patients and send some of the revenues to law enforcement. "This bill not only takes more money from them, it taxes their medicine -- you're going to give some of that medicine to the sheriff's department, the jackboots, the thugs that comes into people's homes and kick in the door," said Serna. That led to an angry exchange with Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge), who then ordered Serna to leave the hearing. The National Patients' Rights Association, which had supported the bill, said it is withdrawing its support after the changes, which would treat medical marijuana much like the state treats alcohol.

First Dispensary in the Second City is Now Open for Business. Chicago's first medical marijuana dispensary opened in Uptown today. Dispensary 33 opened on North Clark Street. Some 150 patients are registered to use it.

International

Health Canada Approves Cannabis Oil Sales. Health Canada has granted permission to Peace Naturals to sell cannabis oil under the country's federal medical marijuana program. Health Canada had decided this past summer to allow the manufacture of cannabis oils, but this is the first time a product has actually been approved.

Uruguay Grants First Two Licenses for Commercial Marijuana Production, Distribution. The country has granted licenses to two companies that will allow them to sell marijuana through government-licensed pharmacies next year. Each company will be allowed to grow up to two tons of finished buds.

Chronicle AM: CA Initiative Picture Clearing Up, Call for NYC Safe Injection Site, More (12/8/15)

It looks like we're now down to one serious legalization initiative in California, calls grow for a safe injection site in New York City, Nepalese villagers fight marijuana eradicators, and more.

Marijuana Policy

California "Sean Parker Initiative" Revised. The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), backed by billionaire tech titan Sean Parker, has been revised to add safeguards for protecting children, maintaining local government control over pot commerce, shielding small businesses from monopolistic competition, and strengthening worker and labor protections in the industry, the campaign said Monday. Click on the title link for more details on the changes.

ReformCA Activists Migrate to Parker Initiative. The California Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform (ReformCA) has apparently given up on getting its own legalization initiative on the ballot, with a majority of ReformCA board members now endorsing the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, known more widely as the "Sean Parker initiative." Board members endorsing the Parker initiative include Oaksterdam University founder Richard Lee, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition head Neill Franklin, Students for Sensible Drug Policy deputy director Stacia Cosner, California Cannabis Industry Association director Nate Bradley, and Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps head David Bronner; and two other board members have reportedly agreed to withdrawing the ReformCA initiative, making a majority. "We have carefully reviewed amendments submitted by the proponents of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, and we're convinced it's time to endorse that initiative and unite everyone behind a single, consensus measure to achieve a legal, regulated system, which a majority of voters have consistently said they want," Bronner said in a prepared statement.

Harm Reduction

Advocates Call for New York City Supervised Injection Site. Faced with a fourth straight year of increasing heroin overdose deaths, public health advocates are calling on the New York City to do more on overdose prevention, including authorizing supervised injection sites. "It's time for New York City to follow the science," said Julie Netherland, PhD, of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Supervised injection facilities can reduce overdose deaths and have proven effective in improving a host of public health and public safety outcomes. We can no longer afford to let fear and stigma stand in the way of saving lives."

International

Slovenia Joins Ranks of Countries Allowing Supervised Injection Facilities. The local nonprofit Stigma has launched a supervised injection site pilot project in the capital, Ljublana. Stigma and the Slovenian Ministry of Health worked quietly behind the scenes to get legal approvals and funding before going public.

Nepalese Villagers Clash With Marijuana Eradicators. Marijuana growing villagers in Makawanpur District fought with police trying to eradicate their crops Monday. Gunfire came from both sides, but no injuries were reported, and crowds dispersed after the gunfire. Police said they had destroyed about 20 acres worth of marijuana crops.

Why the End of Federal Marijuana Prohibition May Be Only Five Years Away [FEATURE]

This article was written in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

Rob Kampia thinks so, and he's a very well-placed observer. As head of the Marijuana Policy Project, Kampia has his finger on the pulse of pot politics as well as anyone, and he made a pretty startling prediction at the International Drug Reform Conference in suburban Washington last month.

MPP's Rob Kampia (YouTube)
At a panel on "Marijuana Reform in Congress," Kampia suggested that a handful of state-level marijuana legalization victories next year is going to set in motion a congressional debate on legalization that could see an end to federal marijuana prohibition before the end of the decade.

Legalization campaigns are already well-advanced in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada, and while getting on the ballot is no guarantee of victory next November, polling so far suggests that most of them will win. And next year could also be the year the first state, and even perhaps a second, legalizes it through the legislative process.

Kampia said, "Vermont is most likely to legalize through the legislature, and Rhode Island has a good shot, but those are the only two states in play."

But then there are the initiative states.

"It could be that four or five initiative states legalize it, and then all of this is facing Congress in 2017," Kampia continued. "Then there will be a vigorous debate on legalization, and then, I predict, Congress could pass the states' rights bill in 2019."

Kampia is talking about something along the lines of this year's Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015 (HR 1940), sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), which would amend the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) so that it would not apply to persons in compliance with marijuana laws in their state.

Passage of such a bill would not make marijuana legal everywhere -- that would be up to the individual states -- but would end the federal government's role in enforcing marijuana prohibition.

Kampia even suggested that Congress might get around to passing a bill to end federal pot prohibition before it gets around to passing a bill allowing states to enact medical marijuana laws without federal interference. That means legislation similar to this year's Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act of 2015 (S 683), sponsored by Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rand Paul (R-KY) could languish while Congress leapfrogs its way to embracing legalization (or at least getting out of its way).

"All the attention will be on legalization," Kampia said, "and there's not a lot of tax revenue for the federal government with just medical marijuana, but if you're talking about the whole ball of wax, with substantial tax revenues, Congress might be inclined to go for the whole enchilada."

The MPP leader wasn't the only one in the room sounding upbeat that day. Drug Policy Alliance national affairs director Bill Piper said that when it comes to marijuana legalization, the train has already left the station.

"I'm very optimistic," Piper said. "The toothpaste is out of the tube. Even Chris Christie can't stop marijuana legalization. Once these initiatives pass in 2016, there's no way back."

The conventional wisdom among drug reformers used to be that we might see federal pot prohibition crumble by the middle of the next decade. But given the lack of disaster and the bonanza of tax revenue in legalization states so far, and the likelihood that a handful more will legalize it next year, that timetable is accelerating.

Chronicle AM: Canada Still Legalizing Weed, GAO Rakes Drug Czar Over Drug War Failures, More (12/7/15)

Canada reiterates its intent to legalize pot, there's strong support for expanding medical marijuana in Georgia, the GAO reports that federal drug policy goals are not being met, and more.

Oh, Canada.
Marijuana Policy

Massachusetts Doctors Oppose Legalization. Doctors with the Massachusetts Medical Society voted over the weekend to reaffirm their opposition to marijuana legalization. The move comes as a legalization initiative appears poised to go before voters next year. The doctors voted to continue their opposition to legalization, a policy first adopted in 1997, and also urged that if legalization were to occur, people under 21 should be barred from use.

Medical Marijuana

Georgia Poll Finds Strong Support for Expanding Medical Marijuana Law. Under current Georgia law, people with certain illnesses are allowed to use medical marijuana, but it can't be grown or produced in the state. A new poll has 84.5% of respondents supporting expanding that law to allow for in-state cultivation with strict regulation. Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) has sponsored legislation that would do just that.

Illinois Tells Patients They Can't Be Gun Owners, Then Retreats. Illinois state police sent letters to a handful of patients saying their firearms cards were being revoked, but now say the letters were sent in error. Patients remain skeptical.

Drug Policy

GAO Says National Drug Policy Goals Not Being Met. In a report released today the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) and other agencies "had not made progress toward achieving most of the goals in the 2010 National Drug Control Strategy (the Strategy) and ONDCP had established a new mechanism to monitor and assess progress. In the Strategy, ONDCP established seven goals related to reducing illicit drug use and its consequences to be achieved by 2015. As of March 2013, GAO's analysis showed that of the five goals for which primary data on results were available, one showed progress and four showed no progress. GAO also reported that ONDCP established a new monitoring system intended to provide information on progress toward Strategy goals and help identify performance gaps and options for improvement. At that time, the system was still in its early stages, and GAO reported that it could help increase accountability for improving progress. In November 2015, ONDCP issued its annual Strategy and performance report, which assess progress toward all seven goals. The Strategy shows progress in achieving one goal, no progress on three goals, and mixed progress on the other three goals. Overall, none of the goals in the Strategy have been fully achieved."

Law Enforcement

The Sickening Use of Young People as Confidential Informants in the Drug War. "Supporters of the drug war often claim that we need to wage this unwinnable war to "protect" young people. 60 Minutes ran an explosive piece last night showing one of the many ways that the war on drugs actually endangers young people: the sickening use of young students as confidential informants," writes the Drug Policy Alliance's Tony Newman. Click on the link for the whole piece.

International

Canada's New Liberal Government Reiterates Vow to Legalize Marijuana. In the annual throne speech last Friday, Governor General David Johnson reiterated Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's plans to legalize marijuana. The effort should get moving once parliament is back in session.

Chilean President Removes Marijuana From Hard Drug List. President Michelle Bachelet has signed an order removing marijuana from the country's list of hard drugs and authorizing the sale of marijuana-derived medicines in pharmacies. Marijuana production and distribution remain criminal offenses, but the Congress is expected to discuss wider reforms of the drug laws early next year.

Five More Useless Drug War Deaths Last Month

At least five people died at the hands of law enforcement officers attempting to enforce the drug laws between October 30 and the end of November, bringing the Drug War Chronicle's drug war death toll so far this year to 54. The tally includes only people who died as a result of drug law enforcement activities.

Two of the victims were white; three were black. Four of the dead had been armed and fired at police (according to police accounts); one was unarmed.

Here is this month's toll:

  1. Floyd Ray Cook, 61, was shot and killed by two Kentucky state troopers and a US Marshal on the night of October 30, ending a seven-day manhunt that began when he shot a Tennessee police officer who had tried to pull him over. At the time, Cook was wanted on methamphetamine trafficking charges after failing to appear at an August hearing in his case. After shooting the Tennessee officer, Cook managed to elude authorities for a week before being cornered at the side of a highway and engaging in gunfire with police. His case made national headlines, with some media reports describing him as a "fugitive rapist," even though his rape conviction had occurred in 1970.
  2. Timothy Gene Smith, 47, was shot and killed by San Diego police November 2 after he fled arresting officers who were looking for him and his wife, Janie Sanders, 32, on a Missouri drug possession warrant. Officers on patrol spotted Smith and gave chase, but lost sight of him until a police helicopter spotted him hiding in a shed between two apartment buildings. Smith then bolted and was bitten by a police dog before hopping a fence and climbing onto the ledge of an apartment building. Police said he turned toward Sgt. Scott Holslag while refusing to show his hands and Holslag, who "feared for his safety," then shot and killed him. No weapons were recovered. Hours later, police arrested Sanders after she refused to leave a Pacific Heights apartment. "Officers killed my husband today, unarmed," Sanders said as she was cuffed and placed in a squad car. While San Diego police said Smith was an armed and dangerous felon wanted on warrants, a Missouri bondsman said the only warrant was for Sanders.
  3. Randy Allen Smith, 34, was shot and killed by a Manatee County (Florida) sheriff's deputy the night of November 17 after allegedly pulling a gun on deputies during a struggle in a Winn Dixie store parking lot. A deputy had spotted a "suspicious" vehicle parked in a side lot and called in back up, and two deputies then approached the vehicle. Smith was ordered out of the car, but refused to show his hands, police said, so they attempted to Taser him, but the Taser hit Smith's dreadlocks and failed to incapacitate him. Police said Smith punched the second deputy in the face, causing him to fall and injure his head. "So he's woozy, and he thinks he sees a gun. Then one of the deputies, we're not sure which one at this point, started saying, 'Gun, a gun, a gun,'" sheriff's spokesman Dan Bristow said. "And that's when our guy shot him (Smith)." A gun was recovered at the scene. Bristow said heroin and cocaine were found on Smith, and while he didn't specify the quantity, he said they appeared packaged for sale. Smith was out on bond for possession of a controlled substance. He had also been previously convicted of cocaine possession, marijuana possession, possession of a firearm by a felon, and resisting an officer without violence.
  4. Demetrius Bryant, 21, was shot and killed by Cayce, South Carolina, police officers in what they called a "drug-related incident" the night of November 17. He died after allegedly exchanging gunfire with officers at an apartment complex in the town. Police said Bryant opened fire, wounding one officer before they returned fire, fatally wounding him. A later report said that police had been attempting to arrest Bryant on unspecified drug charges. "During that arrest procedure, the subject appears to have begun resisting, and a struggle ensued between himself and our two officers," said Sgt.Evan Antley with the Cayce Department of Public Safety.
  5. Darius Smith, 18, was shot and killed by Atlanta police on the night of November 30 after police tried to pull over a drug-laden vehicle in which he was riding. As the car attempted to elude police, it was involved in an accident, and the two men inside jumped out and fled. The driver was arrested a block away, while Smith ran several blocks to the rear of a nearby hotel. "The fleeing male began shooting at officers, which caused officers on scene to return fire striking the suspect multiple times which resulted in his death," Atlanta Police spokeswoman Elizabeth Espy said in a statement. Smith's body was found behind a trash bin. Police said they recovered about two pounds of marijuana, 60 grams of cocaine, Ecstasy tablets, six grams of powder Ecstasy, and $6,000 in cash in the car. The driver, 18-year-old Isiah Irby, is charged with possession of a firearm during commission of a felony, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and trafficking cocaine.

Chronicle AM: No Oregon MJ Social Clubs, Huge Chilean MedMJ Crop, More (12/4/15)

Oregon's cannabis cafes face a bleak future after running afoul of the state's anti-smoking laws, a no-smoking Florida medical marijuana bill advances, a huge medical marijuana crop grows in Chile, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Oregon Marijuana Cafes Must Shut Down By Next Month. Operations that allow people to smoke marijuana inside will have to shut down by January 1 or face fines for violating the Oregon Indoor Clean Air Act. Some cannabis café owners, such as Madeline Martinez, operator of the World Famous Cannabis Café, say they will fight. "People will be forced to consume in the street, in their car, at the park," she said. "It's a nightmare. I'm going to have to close my doors."

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Attorney General Rejects Wording on Medical Marijuana Initiative. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R) has rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to allow for medical marijuana in the state, saying the wording is ambiguous. Initiative proponent David Crouch, a Little Rock attorney, will have to submit revised language if he wants to move forward.

Florida Medical Marijuana Bill Advances. A bill that would allow for cannabis oils containing higher levels of THC-- but not for smokable medical marijuana -- passed the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice Thursday. The measure, SB 460, would amend the state's Right to Try Act, which allows patients facing death to try experimental medicines. A companion measure is also moving in the House.

Asset Forfeiture

Virginia Panel Rejects Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform. The Virginia State Crime Commission voted 9-3 Thursday against endorsing civil asset forfeiture reform legislation. Virginia doesn't have a problem with asset forfeiture, asserted Brunswick County Sheriff Brian Roberts, who sits on the panel. The legislature considered asset forfeiture reform last year, but refused to vote on it and instead bumped it over to the crime commission for further study.

International

Latin America's Largest Ever Legal Marijuana Crop Planted in Chile. Regional agricultural authorities in central Chile last month approved a 6,900-plant medical marijuana grow operation that will produce 20 strains of high-potency marijuana. The resulting buds will be converted to cannabis oil after being harvested next spring (fall in the Southern Hemisphere).

Chronicle AM: Drug Czar Calls Overdoses Top Priority, Just One MA Init Left, More (12/3/15)

The drug czar is concerned about the rising toll of heroin overdose deaths. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Poll: Marijuana Legalization Not a High Priority for Californians. Californians are more concerned with school funding, increasing the minimum wage, and tax levels than they are with marijuana legalization, according to a new Public Policy Institute of California poll. The poll found that 88% thought school funding was "very" or "somewhat" important, 80% though increasing the minimum wage was, 76% thought extending tax increases was, but only 49% though legalizing pot was. Fully one-third (32%) of respondents said legalization was "not at all important."

Down to One Legalization Initiative in Massachusetts. The legalization situation is clarifying. Bay State Repeal, which had mounted a grassroots effort to get its own legalization initiative on the ballot next year, has conceded that if failed to gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. That leaves the Marijuana Policy Project-backed Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol as the sole possible contender next year. The latter group turned in more than 100,000 voter signatures earlier this week; it needs some 67,000 valid ones to qualify for the ballot.

Drug Policy

Drug Czar Says Heroin, Prescription Opiate Overdoses Top Priority. Michael Botticelli, head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office), told a congressional hearing Wednesday that heroin and prescription opiates overdoses are the most urgent issue facing his agency. "There is no more pressing issue," said Botticelli, who testified at a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing on the nation's drug policy. "We have seen a reduction in prescription drug misuse among young adults but that has been replaced by a significant increase in heroin overdose deaths. We know some of this is related to the vast supply of very cheap, very pure heroin in parts of the country where we haven't seen it before." He said that more than 8,000 people died of heroin overdoses in 2013 and that he expects last year's figure to be substantially higher.

Sentencing

Massachusetts Poll Shows Broad Support for Repealing Mandatory Minimums. A poll conducted by Suffolk University's Political Research Center for Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) found that voters there support repealing mandatory minimum sentences by a margin of three-to-one. Some 62% supported repeal, while only 21% were opposed. Other poll questions showed broad support for sentencing reforms as well. "Massachusetts voters get it," said Barbara J. Dougan, Massachusetts project director for FAMM. "They know that mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses are a failed public policy. They want these ineffective and expensive laws repealed. The only question left is whether state lawmakers will listen to their constituents."

International

Malaysian Truck Driver Faces Death Sentence for Less Than a Pound of Pot. Abdul Sukur Saiful Bahri, 38, a driver for a government agency, faces a mandatory death sentence after being charged under the country's draconian drug trafficking laws. He was caught with 305 grams of marijuana, about 11 ounces of weed.

Australian Government Creates National Medical Marijuana Licensing Scheme. The federal government has announced a national licensing plan that will remove the need for states and territories to come up with their own regulatory schemes. The national government will now oversee all regulations for medical marijuana. A bill is being drafted to turn the plan into law. That's expected to happen next year.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Border Patrol agent gets caught with a trunk-load of cocaine, a California narc was working for the other side, a whole bunch of jail and prison guards go bad, and more. Let's get to it:

In Fort Pierce, Florida, a St. Lucie County sheriff's deputy was arrested November 16 after a search of her residence turned up more than 81 grams of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. The raid against Deputy Heather Tucker, 27, came after authorities received a tip she was involved in drug activity. She is charged with marijuana possession with intent to distribute.

In Indianapolis, a Marion County sheriff's deputy was arrested November 19 after he sold marijuana to an undercover informant. Deputy Jed Adams, a 7-year veteran, went down after showing up to a meeting and providing the drugs. He is charged with possession of methamphetamine and marijuana, distribution of marijuana, and official misconduct.

In Bakersfield, California, a Bakersfield Police narcotics detective was arrested November 20 for funneling information about police activities and snitches to a drug dealer in return for bribes. Detective Damacio Diaz is charged with bribery, drug trafficking, obstruction of justice, and filing false tax returns. Diaz is a 17-year veteran of the department, and before that, he was sheriff of Tulare County.

In Marana, Arizona, a US Border Patrol agent was arrested last Monday after state troopers pulled over his vehicle and found 110 pounds of cocaine. Agent Juan Pimental was driving a rental car headed for Chicago when he was stopped. According to court documents, Pimental said he was being paid $50,000 to transport the drugs. He is charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

In New York City, a Rikers Island jail guard was arrested last Tuesday after he was caught trying to smuggle 16 packages of synthetic cannabinoids and seven scalpel blades into the prison. Guard Kevin McCoy, 30, and found with 125 grams of synthetic cannabinoids, and when police searched his home, they found a half-pound of marijuana, another 101 grams of synthetic cannabinoids, 18 suboxone strips, nine more scalpel blades, and two ounces of loose tobacco. Formal charges have not been announced.

In Santa Fe, New Mexico, a Santa Fe County jail guard was arrested last Wednesday after he was caught bringing marijuana, Xanax, and suboxone strips into the jail. Authorities said a prisoner's wife had paid Brandon Valdez, 19, $300 to bring the drugs into the jail. Formal charges have not been announced, but he has been fired.

In Baltimore, a former Maryland prison guard was sentenced on November 20 to three months in jail for his role in a prison drug smuggling operation. Kenyatta Trotter, 42, went down after an inmate cooperating with prison officials snitched him out. He was actually sentenced to 12 years, but all except the three months was suspended. He had pleaded guilty to bribery of a public official and misconduct in office.

In Ocala, Florida,a former federal prison guard was sentenced November 20 to two years in federal prison after being caught accepting a $2,600 bribe from a cooperating witness for items already smuggled into the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex. Robert Lawrence Brown, 32, had pleaded guilty to bribery in September and had been looking at up to 15 years.

Medical Marijuana Update

A patient sues the Border Patrol over harassment at checkpoints, Minnesota expands its program to include chronic pain, a New Hampshire patient wins permission to seek medical marijuana next door in Maine, and more.

National

On Monday, a medical marijuana patient sued the Border Patrol over his right to carry medical marijuana. A New Mexico man filed a federal lawsuit Monday charging that Border Patrol agents are not following a new rule that allows him to carry medical marijuana without risk of federal charges. Raymundo Marrufo is seeking an injunction against the agency over questions it asks travelers at border checkpoints. Marrufo contends that the Rohrabacher Amendment, which bars the Justice Department from interfering in medical marijuana states, makes questioning travelers about medical marijuana illegal. "Whether it is a sense of entitlement, indifference or simply ignorance of the law, the court must immediately issue an injunction enjoining the United States Border Patrol from asking questions and conducting searches that violate that Rohrabacher Amendment," the complaint states.

Arizona

Last Friday, the state Supreme Court issued a mixed ruling on medical marijuana DUID. The state's high court ruled last Friday that medical marijuana cardholders don't have immunity from prosecution under the state's DUID law, but also held that cardholders can try to mount a defense showing that they did not have enough marijuana or pot metabolites in their system to actually be impaired.

California

On Monday, the city of Eureka began a temporary moratorium on commercial medical marijuana grows. The move is designed to ensure local decision-making when the state's new Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act goes into effect on January 1. Localities that have not acted to regulate medical marijuana by then will lose control of regulation to the state.

On Tuesday, the Newport Beach city council gave final approval to a medical marijuana ban ordinance. The ordinance bans the cultivation, processing, distribution, and delivery of medical marijuana, but appears to have been enacted to ensure the city -- not the state -- is able to regulate medical marijuana when the state's new Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act goes into effect on January 1.

Also on Tuesday, a state appeals court upheld Fresno County's ban on medical marijuana grows.. The 5th District Court of Appeals held that the local ban does not conflict with state laws allowing medical marijuana cultivation because those laws do not expressly bar a local government from restricting land uses.

Florida

Last Friday, the state approved five medical marijuana growers. The state Department of Health has named the five operations that will be allowed to grow high-CBD, low-THC marijuana. The state's law limits the use of oils derived from the plants to patients suffering from cancer or a disease that"chronically produces symptoms of seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms that can be treated with low-THC cannabis."

Minnesota

On Wednesday, the state announced it would allow medical marijuana for people in chronic pain. State Health Commissioner Ed Ehringer announced today that people suffering from chronic pain will be allowed to participate in the state's medical marijuana program beginning next August. The public had backed broadening access, but a panel of medical experts had advised against it. "The relative scarcity of firm evidence made this a difficult decision," Commissioner Ehlinger said. "However, given the strong medical focus of Minnesota's medical cannabis program and the compelling testimony of hundreds of Minnesotans, it became clear that the right and compassionate choice was to add intractable pain to the program's list of qualifying conditions. This gives new options for clinicians and new hope for suffering patients."

New Hampshire

Last Tuesday, a New Hampshire woman won approval to seek medical marijuana in Maine. A woman suffering from late-stage lung cancer can seek to buy medical marijuana in neighboring Maine, a judge ruled last Tuesday. Linda Horan, 64, said she could be dead by the time dispensaries open in New Hampshire, so she sued the state to get an ID card that would allow her to purchase it in Maine. The state had argued that issuing her an ID card would undermine its need to control distribution, but the judge wasn't buying that argument. "She is suffering from a painful, terminal disease and is also undergoing chemotherapy. There is no dispute that cannabis can ameliorate some of her suffering," wrote Judge Richard McNamara. "She will suffer irreparable harm if relief is not granted."

North Dakota

On Monday, a medical marijuana initiative was approved for signature gathering. An initiative campaign led by North Dakotans for Compassionate Care has been approved for signature gathering. Organizers will need some 13,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.

Ohio

On Tuesday, a House medical marijuana task force was announced. House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) said that the House is preparing to launch a task force to study the legalization of medical marijuana. The move comes a month after voters defeated a pot legalization initiative that would have also allowed for medical marijuana.

Pennsylvania

Last Wednesday, the medical marijuana bill won a committee vote. The House Rules Committee voted 25-8 last Wednesday to advance a medical marijuana bill. The bill has already passed the Senate, but still needs a House floor vote. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has said he will sign the bill.

Wyoming

On Sunday, the state's medical marijuana initiative was faltering amid inflighting. The head of Wyoming NORML resigned and said he believes the effort to get a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot is over. Chris Christian said petitioners had gathered only about 5,000 of the 20,000 voter signatures required to make the ballot. NORML Deputy Director Lee Roth wasn't ready to call it quits, though; he said he hoped new leadership would bolster support.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM: USPS Warns Newspapers on Pot Ads, MX to Debate Cannabis Next Month, More (12/2/15)

The Postal Service has warned newspapers in the Pacific Northwest that carrying pot business ads could violate federal law, a New Mexico medical marijuana patient is suing the Border Patrol over access to his medicine, Minnesota has approved medical marijuana for chronic pain patients, and more.

Minnesota chronic pain patients will participate in the state's medical marijuana program beginning next August. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

US Post Office Warns Pacific Northwest Newspapers About Carrying Pot Business Ads. In a memo last Friday, the USPS in Portland warned newspapers that they could be violating federal law by running advertising for marijuana businesses. The memo noted that is illegal "to place an ad in any publication with the purpose of seeking or offering illegally to receive, buy, or distribute a Schedule I controlled substance." Newspapers in Oregon have contacted Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), both of whose offices said they had been in contact with USPS about "what appears to be an outdated interpretation" of the law.

Arizona Poll Has Voters Evenly Split on Legalization. There will likely be a legalization initiative on the ballot next year, and a new poll suggests it will be in for a fight. The Morrison-Cronkite Poll has the issue in a statistical dead heat, with 49% of voters in support and 51% opposed. The demographics favor the opposition, the pollster said. "Predictably, those 30 and younger (69%) and those age 31 to 55 (57%) are more likely to favor legalization than those 56 and older (36%)," said David Daugherty, associate director at Morrison Institute, who oversees the survey. "It is important to note, Republicans and older adults vote in larger numbers than either Democrats or young adults, which would, at least at this point in time, point toward likely defeat of the legalization of recreational marijuana."

Medical Marijuana

Patient Sues US Border Patrol Over Right to Carry Medical Marijuana. A New Mexico man filed a federal lawsuit Monday charging that Border Patrol agents are not following a new rule that allows him to carry medical marijuana without risk of federal charges. Raymundo Marrufo is seeking an injunction against the agency over questions it asks travelers at border checkpoints. Marrufo contends that the Rohrabacher Amendment, which bars the Justice Department from interfering in medical marijuana states, makes questioning travelers about medical marijuana illegal. "Whether it is a sense of entitlement, indifference or simply ignorance of the law, the court must immediately issue an injunction enjoining the United States Border Patrol from asking questions and conducting searches that violate that Rohrabacher Amendment," the complaint states.

Minnesota to Allow Medical Marijuana for Chronic Pain. State Health Commissioner Ed Ehringer announced today that people suffering from chronic pain will be allowed to participate in the state's medical marijuana program beginning next August. The public had backed broadening access, but a panel of medical experts had advised against it. "The relative scarcity of firm evidence made this a difficult decision," Commissioner Ehlinger said. "However, given the strong medical focus of Minnesota's medical cannabis program and the compelling testimony of hundreds of Minnesotans, it became clear that the right and compassionate choice was to add intractable pain to the program's list of qualifying conditions. This gives new options for clinicians and new hope for suffering patients."

Ohio House to Create Medical Marijuana Task Force. House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) said Tuesday that the House is preparing to launch a task force to study the legalization of medical marijuana. The move comes a month after voters defeated a pot legalization initiative that would have also allowed for medical marijuana.

Wyoming Medical Marijuana Initiative Effort Falters Amid Infighting. The head of Wyoming NORML resigned on Sunday and said he believes the effort to get a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot is over. Chris Christian said petitioners had gathered only about 5,000 of the 20,000 voter signatures required to make the ballot. NORML Deputy Director Lee Roth wasn't ready to call it quits, though; he said he hoped new leadership would bolster support.

International

Mexico to Open National Debate on Marijuana Legalization Next Month. Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said Tuesday that the government will launch an informational website about marijuana with scientific and technical papers and will begin a series of public debates on marijuana policy in the third week in January. "To be effective, we must consider the different alternatives as well as the costs, benefits and viability of each of them and their impact on the population," he said. "Mexico will have to decide in the next months which policy it will need to face a phenomenon that affects different areas and aspects of the lives of millions of Mexicans."

Police Took More From Citizens Than Burglars Did Last Year

This article was written in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

When you think about getting property stolen, you think about criminals, but maybe you should be thinking about the police. Law enforcement use of asset forfeiture laws to seize property -- often without a criminal conviction or even an arrest -- has gone through the roof in recent years, and now the cops are giving the criminals a run for their money -- and winning.

According to a new report on asset forfeiture from the Institute for Justice, police seized $4.5 billion in cash and property through civil forfeiture last year. That exceeds the $3.9 billion worth of property stolen in burglaries during the same period. The valuation of burglary proceeds is from the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Report.

Now, not every dollar seized by police is "stolen." Some of it is seized legitimately from real criminals who should pay for the damage their crimes cause. But in too many cases, property is seized from people who have not been convicted of anything, like Charles Clarke.

Clarke, a 24-year-old college student, was relieved of $11,000 in cash by federal agents at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport after a ticket agent reportedly told them he smelled like marijuana. They stopped and searched him at the airport, found no drugs or other banned items, and never charged him with a crime, but they took his money.

Clarke says the cash was money he had saved over five years for college tuition. A federal judge this month said he was inclined to believe Clarke and has ordered the feds to actually show he made the money from drug dealing, as they claimed.

Clarke may get his money back, but it is an uphill battle. Unlike criminal law, where prosecutors must prove the guilt of the defendant, under civil asset forfeiture law, the burden of proof falls on the person from whom the money or property was seized. The property owner must prove that the property was not the proceeds of crime. And he must pay attorneys to fight for him. And he may not win.

With police racking up billions in seizures each year, law enforcement itself begins to take on the appearance of a criminal enterprise. It's an enterprise with an ever-expanding appetite. According to Armstrong Economics, federal prosecutors seized an estimated $12.6 billion between 1989 and 2010, and the trend is upward. Federal asset forfeiture proceeds hovered at just under a billion dollars a year until 2007, doubled to two billion by 2009, and doubled again to over four billion in both 2013 and 2014.

Abuses of civil asset forfeiture have struck a chord with the public, and states are now beginning to pass laws banning or severely restricting civil asset forfeiture. Both New Mexico and Michigan did this year, and so did Wyoming, but that law fell victim to a governor's veto.

Likewise, the issue is again gaining attention in Congress, which passed minor asset forfeiture reforms after a similar outcry 15 years ago. There are at least two bills going after civil asset forfeiture in this Congress, including one from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and a bipartisan bill that would bar the use of civil asset forfeiture funds by the DEA to eradicate marijuana.

But until federal legislation actually passes, it's still open season on the citizenry.

Did "LSD Toxicity" Kill Troy Goode, Or Was It The Police Hogtie? [FEATURE]

This article was written in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

A man who died after being hogtied by police in South Haven, Mississippi, earlier this year, was killed by "complications of LSD toxicity," the State Medical Examiner office announced Tuesday, ruling the death "accidental" in an official autopsy report. But given that there are no known cases of fatal LSD overdoses, the examiner's findings are hard to credit.

Troy Goode and his wife (family photo)
The family of Troy Goode isn't buying it. And they have their own, independent autopsy findings and the science of psychedelics to back them up.

Goode, his wife, and friends were in the parking lot of a Widespread Panic concert before the show when he began behaving erratically after taking several hits of LSD. His wife attempted to drive him home, but at some point, he got out of the car and began creating a disturbance. Police were called, and they chased and arrested him, hogtieing him face down on a stretcher. He was charged with resisting arrest, then taken in an ambulance to a hospital, where he died two hours later.

Last month, Goode's family and their attorney, Tim Edwards, cited an independent autopsy report that found Goode died after being hogtied and left prone for an extended period. That stress position caused him to have trouble breathing and, as his heart attempted to compensate, it went into cardiac arrhythmia.

"He was suffocating. His heart increased into what is called tachycardia," Edwards said. "There is no scientific basis to attribute his death to LSD. This was lethal force, putting someone in a prolonged hogtied position," Edwards said. "This was not a situation where a 300-pound man attacked a police officer in the dark. This was a science nerd."

At the time, Edwards said the family was asking the Justice Department to open a civil rights investigation into Goode's death and that the family planned to file a lawsuit in January seeking compensation and a ban on hogties.

The Goode family, now represented by attorney Kevin McCormack, isn't any happier today. McCormack said he was "shocked and surprised" by the official autopsy finding.

"It says the cause of death was due to complications resulting from LSD toxicity. My initial reaction when I read that was shock and surprise. As I mentioned numerous times, there's not a single reported death in all of the medical literature from the beginning of human time, not a single reported death due to LSD toxicity," said McCormack.

"In the medical literature there are cases where people took 1000 and 7000 times more LSD than Troy did and ended up fine," said McCormack. "I have no idea what they would mean by complications. What we do know is that LSD, even extremely high doses, is very unlikely to kill anyone and that hogtieing is extremely likely to kill someone," said McCormack.

"We know why Troy died, we know what caused it, and we know it was not LSD," said McCormack.

The widely-acclaimed drug information website Erowid has reviewed the evidence around LSD fatalities, and it backs up what the Goode family lawyers have been saying: "Put simply, LSD does not cause death at recreational or therapeutic doses… Fewer than a handful of human deaths have been tied in the medical literature to the pharmacological effects of LSD, and none of these deaths have been unquestionably attributable to LSD's actions."

Erowid is relying on the scientists:

"No well-documented human deaths resulting directly from the toxic effects of LSD itself have occurred, though LSD has been implicated in accidental deaths, suicides, and homicides," Haddad and Winchester noted in 1990.

"LSD is not toxic in the biological sense," Dr. Paul Gahlinger wrote in his 2001 book "Illegal Drugs: A Complete Guide to Their History, Chemistry, Use and Abuse."

"There have been no documented human deaths from an LSD overdose," a 2008 review of the scientific literature by Passie et al concluded.

Erowid expanded on the accidental death theme to note that some deaths have been associated with inebriated or combative behavior, "including falling or jumping from a height or dying after beaten by police."

Goode was beaten by police, bitten by a police dog, and then restrained. The official autopsy notes cuts to his cheek and chin, bleeding between his scalp and his brain, more cuts or scrapes on his chest, and three fractured ribs. Goode also suffered puncture wounds from a dog bite to his left arm and bruises on both wrists, both ankles, "multiple contusions on the lower left leg," and bruises and cuts or scrapes to his right thigh.

But it was the LSD that killed him, according to Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Erin A. Barnhart, M.D., who signed the autopsy report: "Based on the autopsy findings and current investigational information, the 30-year-old male died as a result of complications of LSD toxicity."

DeSoto County District Attorney John Champion is prepared to wrap it all up. He said Tuesday that, based on the evidence, there was no police misconduct. Now it's up to the family to decide whether to pursue other means of recourse.

Southaven, MS
United States

Chronicle AM: Autopsy Claims Hogtied Man Was Killed By LSD, MA Init Hands in Sigs, More (12/1/15)

With signatures handed in today, Bay Staters should be voting on legalization next year. (www.regulatemassachusetts.org)
Marijuana Policy

Massachusetts Legalization Initiative Campaign Hands in Signatures. The Marijuana Policy Project-backed Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol today turned in more than 103,000 signatures to advance its initiative to legalize marijuana. The campaign only needs 64,750 valid voter signatures to qualify.

Medical Marijuana

North Dakota Medical Marijuana Initiative Gets Go Ahead for Signature Gathering. An initiative campaign led by North Dakotans for Compassionate Care has been approved for signature gathering. Organizers will need some 13,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.

Drug Policy

Bernie Sanders Returns to Criminal Justice, Marijuana Legalization Themes. At a campaign speech in New Hampshire Monday night, the Vermont independent senator and Democratic presidential contender reiterated his concerns about drug and criminal justice policy, saying the country needs "major reforms in a very broken criminal justice system." Sanders called for investing in jobs and education, "not more jails and incarceration, removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, and treating substance use "as a serious health issue, not a criminal issue."

Law Enforcement

Mississippi Man Hogtied By Police Died of "LSD Toxicity," Autopsy Says. The Mississippi State Medical Examiner has ruled that Troy Goode, who died after being hog-tied and arrested by police in Southaven after a concert, was not killed by police action. Instead, he ruled the death an "accident," related to "complications of LSD toxicity." That he actually died of "LSD toxicity" is extremely unlikely. His family attorney says the family is "shocked and surprised" by the finding.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Chronicle AM: DEA Snitching Issues, Dutch Towns Want Regulated Marijuana Grows, More (11/30/15)

Marijuana Policy

Cherokee Chief Vetoes Marijuana Legalization Study Resolution. The principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Patrick Lambert, has vetoed a resolution authorizing a feasibility study to examine the "issues and impacts associated with the legalization of cannabis" on tribal lands. "I have stated my opposition to the recreational use of drugs many times, and this includes marijuana," Chief Lambert wrote in his veto letter to Tribal Council Chairman Bill Taylor. Tribal members supporting legalization, organized as Common Sense Cannabis, responded with a statement saying Lambert was misguided: "In Chief Lambert's veto letter, he solely focuses on the 'recreational' marijuana, in which we call personal use. He cites recreational drug use as the problem in our community. While he is right about drug use as a problem, it does not stem from cannabis use. The problem lies with legal prescription pills and other synthetics, such as meth and heroin." The group is calling for the veto to be overridden in a tribal council meeting this Thursday.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Approves Five Medical Marijuana Growers. The state Department of Health has named the five operations that will be allowed to grow high-CBD, low-THC marijuana. The state's law limits the use of oils derived from the plants to patients suffering from cancer or a disease that "chronically produces symptoms of seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms that can be treated with low-THC cannabis."

New Hampshire Woman Wins Approval to Seek Medical Marijuana in Maine. A woman suffering from late-stage lung cancer can seek to buy medical marijuana in neighboring Maine, a judge ruled last Tuesday. Linda Horan, 64, said she could be dead by the time dispensaries open in New Hampshire, so she sued the state to get an ID card that would allow her to purchase it in Maine. The state had argued that issuing her an ID card would undermine its need to control distribution, but the judge wasn't buying that argument. "She is suffering from a painful, terminal disease and is also undergoing chemotherapy. There is no dispute that cannabis can ameliorate some of her suffering," wrote Judge Richard McNamara. "She will suffer irreparable harm if relief is not granted."

Law Enforcement

Justice Department Inspector General Slams DEA Snitch Practices. In its semiannual report to Congress, the DOJ's OIG criticized the DEA for failing to have guidelines for the use of "high-level and media-affiliated sources," failing to effectively review snitches' authorization to conduct "Otherwise Criminal Activity," and failing to review its continued use of long-term snitches. The report also noted that the DEA was at times uncooperative, including efforts to obstruct the OIG's reviews of snitch file reviews and long delays in providing requested information.

International

European Parliamentary Council Calls for Public Health-Oriented Drug Policy. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in advance of next year's UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs, has called for a public health approach to drug policy. "The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe stresses that the world drug problem constitutes a major public health threat, for both individual drug users and society as a whole… the committee strongly supports the call for a change in approach to drug policy and calls on member States to adopt and promote a public-health-oriented drug policy based on prevention, treatment and harm reduction. It also invites all participants of the UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem to defend a new approach to drug policy, which should shift the emphasis from criminal justice to public health."

Dutch Localities Call for Regulated Marijuana Cultivation. The association of Dutch localities, VNG, has issued a new report calling for the government to regulate and license marijuana cultivation as a means of squeezing out smugglers and organized crime. The Dutch allow for the sale of small amounts of marijuana, but there is no legal provision for supplying the crop. 'The current situation cannot continue,' the report states. 'As local officials, we are experiencing major social problems… By turning a blind eye [to marijuana], the government is giving criminals free rein to sell their products. The cannabis industry is loosely entwined with organized crime, which is also involved in ecstasy and human trafficking," the report says.

Uttarkakhand to Become First Indian State to Allow Hemp Cultivation. The state government is now allowing farmers to grow hemp plants with less than 1.5% THC for industrial purposes. The crop can only be sold to the state government, not private buyers.

Chronicle AM: AK to Allow Some Social Pot Smoking, Sentencing Reform Moves in Congress, More (11/23/15)

Marijuana Policy

You'll be able to toke up with this at some Alaska pot shops. (wikimedia.org)
Alaska Will Allow Marijuana Use at Some Stores. The state's Marijuana Control Board voted 3-2 last Friday to allow consumption at some pot shops, making it the first state to do so. Board Chairman Bruce Schulte said there seemed to be public demand for such an option.

New Jersey Marijuana Arrests Going Up, Not Down. Even as state legislators discuss marijuana legalization, New Jersey cops are busily arresting pot smokers at a record pace. Marijuana arrests jumped 10% in 2012 and 10% again in 2013, according to New Jersey State Police Uniform Crime Reports. The 24,765 marijuana arrests is the highest number in 20 years, and nearly double the amount in 1993.

Vermont Legalization Supporters Release Report. The Vermont Cannabis Collaborative has released a report outlining a legalization framework for state lawmakers. The report calls for home grows of up to nine plants, craft growers who could grow up to 99 plants, and large-scale operators, who could have a grow space of up to 30,000 feet. There's much more at the report link.

Medical Marijuana

Arizona Supreme Court Mixed Ruling on Medical Marijuana DUID. The state's high court ruled last Friday that medical marijuana cardholders don't have immunity from prosecution under the state's DUID law, but also held that cardholders can try to mount a defense showing that they did not have enough marijuana or pot metabolites in their system to actually be impaired.

Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Committee Vote. The House Rules Committee voted 25-8 last Wednesday to advance a medical marijuana bill. The bill has already passed the Senate, but still needs a House floor vote. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has said he will sign the bill.

Heroin and Prescription

Maryland Legislator Proposes Heroin Maintenance Program. Delegate Dan Morhaim (D) said last Thursday he plans to offer legislation next year to provide free heroin to addicts in a bid to reduce crime.

Asset Forfeiture

New Mexico Senators Sue Albuquerque Over Asset Forfeiture. A bipartisan pair of state senators have filed a lawsuit against the city of Albuquerque over its vehicle seizure program, which they say violates the state's recently passed asset forfeiture reforms. Sens. Lisa Torraco (R-Albuquerque) and Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-Albuquerque) are seeking an injunction to stop the city from seizing vehicles without the owner first being convicted of a crime.

Harm Reduction

FDA Approves Narcan Nasal Spray. The Food and Drug Administration last Thursday approved a naloxone nasal spray to stop or reverse opiate overdoses. The FDA said it was as effective as the injectable form of the drug.

Sentencing

Historic Sentencing Reform Bill Passes House Judiciary Committee. Last Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to advance the Sentencing Reform Act. The bill, introduced by Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), and sponsored by thirty other Representatives, would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, expand the federal "safety valve" (which allows judges to use their discretion to sentence people below statutory mandatory minimums), and make many of the sentencing reductions retroactive. The bill is also moving in the Senate, where the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced its version last month.

International

China Bans More Than a Hundred New Psychoactive Substances. China last month banned more than a hundred new psychoactive substances, including alpha-PVP, more widely known as "flakka." It is now illegal to distribute flakka, synthetic opiates, and a score of other chemicals.

Mounting Pressure on DEA Head to Resign For Calling Medical Marijuana "A Joke"

Medical marijuana patients and supporters gathered today at DEA headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, to hand in more than 100,000 petition signatures demanding the resignation or firing of DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg after he called medical marijuana "a joke."

Medical marijuana is no joke said 100,000 signatures delivered to the DEA today. (wikimedia.org)

The petition, which was started only two weeks ago, has more than doubled the number of signatures on an earlier petition that helped prompt the ouster of Rosenberg's predecessor, former DEA head Michele Leonhart.

After walking from the nearby site of the International Drug Reform Conference, the group held a brief press conference in front of the DEA building. It was led by petition organizer Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority, whose own mother is a patient.

"My mom uses medical marijuana to deal with the severe pain caused by multiple sclerosis," he said. "This issue is no laughing matter for her and millions of other people who have seen the benefits of cannabis for themselves."

Also addressing the press conference were medical marijuana patients and the parents of young medical marijuana patients.

"There is no doubt that my son Jagger is alive today because of medical cannabis," said Sebastian Cotte, who helped carry the petitions. "Cannabis has tremendously decreased the pain and seizures caused by his mitochondrial disease, while improving his quality of life. For our family, this is no joke."

"There's nothing funny about suicidal thoughts, and those are something my family and I lived with day-to-day die to my military-related PTSD," said Navy veteran T.J. Thompson. "Using medical marijuana not only helps with my condition, but it has also had the added effect of making me a better father and husband."

Medical marijuana is now legal in 23 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam, and 17 more states have more limited laws allowing for the use of marijuana extracts, primarily for children suffering seizure disorders. According to Americans for Safe Access, which supported the petition, more than two million Americans now use medical marijuana in accordance with state laws.

An ever-increasing mountain of scientific studies have shown that medical marijuana is beneficial in alleviating the symptoms of serious conditions, including cancer, AIDS, epilepsy, and many others. With his remarks about medical marijuana as "a joke," DEA head Rosenberg made clear that he was either ignorant of the science around medical marijuana or indifferent to it.

The petition delivery came one day after a bipartisan group of members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama calling for Rosenberg's head, saying his comments "send a clear signal to the American people that the federal government isn't listening to them. It erodes trust. Cavalier statements like these fly in the face of state policy and the experience of millions of patients."

The letter blasted Rosenberg's statements as relics of "a throwback ideology rooted in the failed war on drugs" and accused him of "trivializing" both the science and the experience of millions of American who have used medical marijuana.

"Mr. Rosenberg's statements send a clear signal to the American people that the federal government isn't listening to them…Through his statements, Mr. Rosenberg has demonstrated that he is not the right person to hold the job of head of the DEA, and we urge you to find new leadership that can work to develop the right tools to properly rationalize our treatment of marijuana," the letter said.

It was signed by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Sam Farr (D-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and Ted Lieu (D-CA). Blumenauer himself took to the House floor to echo the call for Rosenberg's resignation or firing.

"This is going to be a political problem for the Obama administration until they fix it," warned Angell.

Arlington, VA
United States

Burn the Drug War on the National Mall This Saturday!

Posted in:

[Update: Catharsis took place as planned. Photos from the event can be found on the event's Facebook page.]

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/catharsis-cell-burning.jpg
This coming weekend, the National Mall in Washington, DC, will be the scene of a two-day vigil highlighted by the ceremonial burning of an interactive art installation dedicated to victims on the drug war in the shadow of the Washington monument.

The event is Catharsis on the Mall: A Vigil for Healing the Drug War, open to the public and featuring exhibits, art, music, dance, and nationally known speakers, including famed civil rights attorney Billy Murphy Jr.; Ifetayo Harvey, who lost her father at age four to prison and deportation for a first-time drug offense; and Anthony Papa, sentenced to fifteen years to life imprisonment for a first-time drug offense.

The vigil's centerpiece is the "Temple of Essence," a structure that "offers a space for healing personal and collective trauma, engaging community, and allowing the release of negative energy." It's the temple that will burn on Saturday night.

"People will see they are not alone in this struggle," said Michael Verdon, temple artist and US Air Force veteran. "As the temple burns, we will turn our individual experiences into a collective memory and heal as a community. Afterwards, our vigil will continue with cathartic dancing until sunrise."

Members of the public are invited to share their drug war stories during open mike sessions, as well as writing them within the temple's walls and leaving mementos before it burns.

"Through art and peaceful expression, we are demonstrating the transition to a more compassionate society," said event organizer and civil rights attorney, Robert Haferd. "This vigil is the first of its kind on the National Mall, and we are delighted that the National Park Service, Park Police, and the DC Fire Department have partnered with us to make it possible.

The event is organized by Washington DC-area artists, social justice advocates, and Burning Man participants. Speakers and installations will be provided by national and local drug policy organizations, including Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).

The vigil is timed to coincide with the International Drug Policy Reform Conference, which will bring more than one thousand researchers, academics and advocates to our nation's capital to work toward ending the war on drugs.

"From the recently-leaked United Nations document calling for drug decriminalization, to growing bipartisan support for ending mass incarceration and allowing cannabis research, we are transitioning from the traumatic war on drugs to policies grounded in public health and human rights," said Natalie Lyla Ginsberg, event organizer and Policy and Advocacy Manager for MAPS. "It’s time to come together to heal and celebrate."

See you there!

Washington, DC
United States

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